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The iPhone 15 Pro's new Action Button is great news for Android

I'll take a button over a touchscreen target any day.
By
September 14, 2023
apple iphone 15 pro action button
Apple

One of the few hardware changes Apple is introducing with its iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max is a new Action Button to replace the physical silent switch. As all of the leaks — some of which inadvertently came from Apple itself — suggested, this new button replaces the single-purpose switch with a customizable clicker. And despite being a little jealous of it, I can’t help but think that its arrival is fantastic news for Android users. Why? Imitation is the best form of flattery, and we all know what this will lead to.

Would you like to see a shortcut button on Android phones?

909 votes

Copy my homework, but change it a little

ASUS Zenfone 10 fingerprint scanner
Robert Triggs / Android Authority

As with many of the features Apple introduces, the Action Button’s idea is not new. Some Android phones have had a similar key for years. The ASUS Zenfone 10, notably, includes Smart Key functionality on its power button and lets you assign any app or action to both a double tap or tap-and-hold. Meanwhile, the Sony Xperia Pro-I has a dedicated shortcut key that opens any app. Some Nokia phones also had an Assistant button that could be remapped with a third-party app to do anything. And many other Android phones have toyed with the idea of extra buttons before backpedaling and going back to the default power plus volume buttons setup.

Apple isn't the first brand to add a customization button, but it'll be remembered as the one that popularized them.

Although Apple isn’t the first brand to think of a customizable button, I’m under no illusion that it will go down in the smartphone history books as the company that popularized them and made them “a thing.” Apple doesn’t make hardware or software changes lightly. So I’m sure that the move from a physical switch to a customizable button is here to stay. And with the ability to set it to open any Shortcut, Apple is practically opening the doors wide for you to literally do anything with that button. Launch an app, start a smart home routine, play a specific playlist, and more.

apple iphone 15 pro action button settings shortcut
Apple

As with widgets, customizable lock screens, Standby Mode, and many more features before, there’s a bit of copying here, but the execution is quintessentially Apple-esque. It’s simple and it’s here to stay.

More customizable buttons on Android, soon?

Sony Xperia Pro I right edge profile
Eric Zeman / Android Authority

Inspiration is a two-way street. OnePlus notably implemented the iPhone’s previous silent switch as an alert slider, and OPPO is now carrying the torch too. Google and Samsung took the idea of the iPhone’s double-tap on the back and added it to their Pixel and Galaxy line-ups. When a feature — no matter how novel or old — shows up on iPhones, it has a way of propagating much, much faster to the rest of the mobile landscape.

Any feature, old or new, that shows up on iPhones has a way of propagating to the rest of the mobile landscape.

Hopefully, imitation and flattery will catch the Android crowd once again and we’ll see more brands adding a customizable shortcut button. The best Android phones can do so much these days and everyone uses them differently. I like shooting lots of photos and videos, commuters love their music and podcasts, and others may use them for work and productivity. Having a quick tactile button to start your most frequent actions will always be faster and more convenient than looking for a touch target on a display.

Better yet, Android brands could take the shortcut button further, as ASUS has already done. Assign different actions to a single press, double press, and a press-and-hold. Triple press too, why not? And even if they don’t, I’m sure there’ll always be a third-party app to customize that.

Personally, I’m feeling a bit saturated with the whole touchscreen-for-everything interaction paradigm and I’m yearning for more physical buttons. Give me a key to feel and press, even while I’m taking my phone out of my pocket and before I’m able to glance at the screen, and I’ll surely find a million ways to make the most of it.